Prospect Wallace may be big prize for Astros
Hitting stud acquired from Jays after Oswalt is sent to Philly
HOUSTON -- No matter what Brett Wallace accomplishes during the rest of his playing career -- and the Astros hope it's quite a bit -- he can always say he was involved in a deal for Matt Holliday. And Roy Halladay. And now Roy Oswalt.
"Obviously, you look at all of those names and they're perennial All-Stars," Wallace said. "Being dealt with those guys is definitely an honor. It goes to show some organizations have belief in you and you have to take it as a compliment and try to prove them right."
The Astros certainly have a world of belief in Wallace, so much so they pulled off a secondary trade to acquire him on Thursday. Houston sent Oswalt to the Phillies for Minor League infielder Jonathan Villar and outfielder Anthony Gose, who was then sent to the Blue Jays in exchange for Wallace.
Wallace, 23, hit .301 with 24 doubles, 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 95 games at Triple-A Las Vegas this season. The Cardinals' first-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Wallace will report to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate at Round Rock and play first base.
"Brett Wallace is a hitting machine," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "No question about that. We've had our eye on him since the 2008 Draft. He was a first-round pick of the Cardinals at that point and has been in some pretty big trades."
Indeed, he has.
The Cardinals sent Wallace to Oakland as part of the package to acquire Holliday on July 24, 2009, and he was dealt to the Blue Jays less than six months later for Michael Taylor, who had just been obtained by Toronto as part of the Halladay deal with the Phillies.
"He's a high-profile kid who can really swing the bat," Wade said. "He's still only 23 years old, and we think this kid's got a chance, once he gets to the big leagues, to hit .300-plus for a very, very long time and be a key offensive piece in this club."
Wallace, who attended Major League Spring Training with the Blue Jays this year, played college baseball at Arizona State and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2007 and '08. In 2007, he won the conference's Triple Crown by hitting .423 with 16 homers and 78 RBIs while leading the Sun Devils to the College World Series.
He played third base at Arizona State and when he began his professional career, but this is his first full season at first base.
"I feel really comfortable there now, but I know it's another thing I need to continue to work on," Wallace said. "I think I can play first very well. I'm just going to keep working and get better and better."
Wade said the addition of Wallace to the organization was by no means a threat to veteran Lance Berkman, who's in the last year of his contract and has struggled offensively for much of the season. Wade even called Berkman and told him as much.
"I actually talked to Lance this afternoon and told him that question could arise and told him I'm not going to anoint Brett Wallace as the first baseman of the future," he said. "We had a chance to go out and get a guy who's a really solid hitter and has a chance to be a really good big league player, but Lance is our first baseman."
Wallace was sitting in his hotel room in Reno, Nev., on Thursday afternoon, getting ready to eat lunch with his teammates, when Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos called him and informed him he was traded. Again.
"It was pretty unexpected, but I'm excited," Wallace said. "I know a bunch of the guys like [catcher Jason] Castro and [pitcher Bud] Norris. I played against Castro all through high school and then at Stanford, and played against Norris in high school. I'm pretty excited to be able to go to a team that I know some of the guys. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Wade believes Wallace could be at the Major League level soon.
"We think he can move quickly," he said. "He's not so much of a power bat, but a bat that has the ability to be a .300 hitter. We think once he gets comfortable in his surroundings, he's got a chance of doing the same thing, and hopefully he continues that development to the point he's here to contribute at the big league level."
Villar, 19, hit .272 in 100 games at Class A Lakewood this year with 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 38 stolen bases. Signed by the Phillies as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic, he has 82 steals in 204 career Minor League games, most of which have been at shortstop. He will report to high Class A Lancaster in the California League.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.